Without Cars, Radio Would Be Dead

DISC JOCKEYS AROUND THE WORLD all have one thing to thank for having their jobs, especially in this age of endless entertainment options. It’s not their listeners they should be thanking—it’s their listeners’ cars.

Entertainment media becomes obsolete at the speed of light. VCRs, CDs, Walkmans… all have come and gone. But there’s one medium that’s been around even longer than all of those. And it’s still going strong today. It’s radio. And it’s all because of the automobile.

Thanks to cars, humans have nurtured a relationship with radio that’s lasted more than 80 years. The reason? Few things in life require more attention than driving. When you’re listening to radio, with its hands-off format for music and news that's pre-curated by DJs, you can keep engaged on the task at hand, while still keeping your eyes on the road. And although satellite and digital radio threaten to kill terrestrial-based FM—and while self-driving cars threaten the existence of all radio—the medium has proven to be incredibly resilient, although its survival story hasn’t been a short or easy one.

See, the inside of a car is an experimental petri dish fit for the latest entertainment technology trends of the day. Throughout the years, all the flashiest tech of the time has appeared on dashboards the world over—8-tracks, cassette tapes, compact discs—and yet all those have faded away. But radio's stuck around. Even when TV replaced radio as a family pastime in the home, the inherent need for entertainment that's fit for multitasking is what's allowed cars to keep radio alive....

-- Bryan Lufkin, BBC Autos



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